Setting Goals as a Small Business Owner: Back to Basics
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Setting Goals as a Small Business Owner: Back to Basics

By In BLOG, Learning Zone On 24th June 2018

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Setting goals as the owner of a small business is vital both to the sustained growth and success of the organisation, as well as the chance of it staying in business.

If that sounds a bit defeatist, it really isn’t; without clear, achievable and measurable goals, you simply won’t succeed.

The problem often lies in setting goals of that nature. It’s not the sort of thing you can do on a whim when you’ve got fifteen minutes spare one afternoon – you need to plan meticulously and ensure the goals you’re setting are realistic and geared towards helping the business succeed.

In today’s blog, we’re going to go right back to basics and consider how small business owners can set goals they’re capable of achieving.

Think big first…

What’s the overarching aim of your business?

If you wrote a business plan, you should know this in minute detail, but if you haven’t reached that stage yet, you should at least have a pretty solid idea of what it is you want to achieve as a small business owner.

This goal is the big one; it’s not something you’re going to reach tomorrow. It might take a year, five years of a decade. It may even be a goal that is so lofty it’s likely to evolve with industry and worldwide trends. And that’s fine, too!

Whatever it is, write it down and leave it to digest for a day or two.

bright idea

…and then think small

How do you set upon the path to your big goal? You break it down into its constituent steps!

As previously noted, you’re not going to try and achieve your big goal in one hit. If you do attempt that, you’ll only be disappointed. Instead, you need to approach it in bite-sized chunks, which means going from ‘thinking big’ to ‘thinking small’.

This stage of goal setting may well take you the longest time, but it’s certainly worth it. Break that big goal up into individual elements, and then assign tasks against each element.

After a while, you should emerge with a far more detailed picture of what you need to do to reach that big goal. And, suddenly, it’ll start to look far more achievable.

Don’t get bogged down with numbers

There’s no escaping the fact that goal setting in business involves a fair amount of number crunching.

There’ll be sales targets you need to reach, marketing metrics you’ll want to nail and a specific number of customers you’ll want to bring on board at each milestone, but get lost in the numbers and you’ll lose sight of why they matter.

Quantifiable goals are very important, but for every number you decide to achieve, note against it why. What does that number represent to you, the business and its customers?

Number crunching gets boring after a while, but if it’s tied to something more emotive and in keeping with the ethos of your business, you’ll never forget why you’re doing this.

Check in on your goal progress

The frequency with which you check on your goal progress is entirely up to you. For some people, once a month is fine, whereas others may want to spend fifteen minutes at the end of every day reviewing progress.

Pick a frequency that works for you, but make sure there is one. After all, if you never check in on your goal progress, how will you know when you’ve hit them?

small business goals

Review your goals – regularly

You’re not superhuman, nor can you see into the future, which is why some of the goals you set now may prove to be inadequate, dated or just plain wrong further down the line.

If you review your goals regularly, you’ll avoid continually chasing those that just aren’t relevant any more. Regular reviews of your goals will also help you stay productive.

Changing market conditions, evolving customer behaviour and new competition are all elements of business that might impact the effectiveness of your goals.

Just remember that you’ve done nothing wrong if you get a goal incorrectly; you set it that way for a reason, and you don’t have a crystal ball. Hindsight is a wonderful thing!

Think about where you want your business to be

Where do you want your business to be in one, five and ten years’ time?

If thinking that far ahead seems ludicrous when you’re in the start-up phase, you’re missing out on an important element of goal setting.

We started this blog post by suggesting you need to ‘think big’ from the start when it comes to setting goals, and you can only really do that if you have a feel for where you want the organisation to be much further down the line.

Whatever you decide at this point doesn’t have to be set in stone; as we noted above, you can change your goals whenever you need to, and the same goes for where you believe the business will end up in the future.

Even if you’re basing your assessment on a finger-in-the-air judgement of what might happen in five years’ time, that’s fine, because it will provide your goals with context and deliver some much needed excitement to the process of running your business.

Take into account your life goals

One of the greatest things about running a small business, whether it’s a team of three people or just yourself, is that you have full control over its future.

The same goes for your life, and because your business is likely to take up a significant part of your life during it’s creation and growth, it’s important you tie in your life goals.

This will provide even more context for where you want the business to end up in the future and what those goals mean to you. For instance, if you want to travel the world in five years’ time, the business will need to take your eventual absence or ability to work remotely into account.

As a small business owner, it’s highly likely your personal goals are already closely aligned with those of your business. The business may even be a direct result of a personal ambition or hobby, therefore by aligning the two, you’ll ensure both the commercial side of the operation and your future happiness will be inextricably linked.

Wrapping up

Goal setting should never be boring, therefore if you’ve started the process before and given up, we hope our tips above convince you to give it another go.

The takeaway is a simple one: as a small business owner, you control the goal setting. No one can force you in any direction, therefore grab this opportunity to pick the best path for you and your business.